Palau is officially the Republic of Palau. It is a country in the western Pacific Ocean. It is made up of approximately 340 islands spread along a chain in the southwest corner of Micronesia. The most populous island is Koror. However, the capital city of Ngerulmud is located on the larger, neighboring island of Babeldaob. Palau’s nearest neighbors are the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Palau has a population of approximately 21,500. Indigenous Palauans make up the majority of the population (65%), but given its proximity to other nations, Palau is more diverse than some of the farther-flung nations of Oceania, such as those in Polynesia. Minority groups in Palau include Filipino (21.6%), other Asian (6.4%), other Micronesian (3.1%), Vietnamese (2.3%), and White/Caucasian (1.1%).
Four main languages are spoken in Palau.
Palauan and English are the two nationwide official languages. However, there are two states, Sonsorol and Hatohobei, where the local languages (Sonsorolese and Tobian, respectively), are the official language. Palauan is a western Austronesian language many complexities and irregular grammar rules that make it difficult to learn. Because of the complexity of the language and the diversity of the population, more people speak English than Palauan.
Christianity is the primary religion throughout Palau. Approximately 50% of the country is Roman Catholic. Another 28% is Protestant or other Christian. Approximately 10% follow the Modekngei religion. That is thought to be a hybrid religion of Christian beliefs mixed with ancient indigenous Palauan traditions. Also, due to the Japanese presence on the islands, there are some followers of the Buddhist and Shinto faiths.
The first Palauans arrived between the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE. They may have come from Indonesia.
Not much is known about these early Palauans. It is possible that they were a Melanesian people of short stature, often referred to as Pygmies. There is some archaeological evidence that these inhabitants thrived on the islands until around the 12th century. Then, they were replaced by incoming immigrants from Micronesia. The Micronesians likely came from the Sunda Islands to the southwest.
The islands of Palau were sighted by Europeans in 1522. It was during the famous voyage of Ferdinand Magellan. First contact with Europeans was made over a century later in 1697. That happened when a group of native Palauans became shipwrecked on one of the Philippine islands. Using maps based on interviews with these shipwrecked Palauans, Christian missionaries were able to travel by ship in 1710.
Throughout the 18th and 19th century, Palau was a part of the Spanish Empire. However, the islands were sold to the German Empire in 1899. That happened following the defeat of Spain in the Spanish–American War.
In 1914, the Japanese annexed the islands after seizing them from Germany during World War I. Thirty years later, during World War II, the United States captured Palau from Japan after the Battle of Peleliu in 1944. The islands became a territory of the United States until independence was gained in 1978. In 1981, the islands officially became known as the Republic of Palau.
This section is under development.
Sources & Resources
CIA Staff. (2018). Palau. The World Fact Book. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ps.html.
Donald Raymond Shuster and Sophie Foster. (2018). Palau. The Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Palau.
Wikipedia contributors. (2018, August 18). Palau. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 20, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Palau&oldid=855457709.